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A Huge Victory for LGBTIQ+ Equality in Botswana: Court Upholds Ruling Decriminalizing Same-Sex Relationships

Nairobi, 30 November 2021 - The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the Botswana Family Welfare Association (BOFWA) celebrate and welcome Botswana’s Court of Appeal’s decision to up...

Nairobi, 30 November 2021 - The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the Botswana Family Welfare Association (BOFWA) celebrate and welcome Botswana’s Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold a 2019 ruling that decriminalized same-sex relationships.

On Monday 29 November 2021, five judges from the Court of Appeal unanimously ruled that criminalising same-sex relationships was a violation of the constitutional rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ+) individuals to dignity, liberty, privacy and equality.

The offending sections of the Penal Code have been removed accordingly, as they were found to violate liberty, privacy and dignity and cause undue discrimination to the LGBTIQ+ community. This decision has affirmed Botswana’s commitment to uphold the democratic rights of all its citizens, including their full and complete sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). This appeal was the third to be heard by the full bench of the court of Appeal concerning constitutionality of the state actors, or sections of statutes challenged as breaching the fundamental rights of members of the LGBTIQ+ community.

BOFWA, a member association of IPPF, plays a leading role in providing and championing access to high-quality and integrated SRHR for all those who are marginalised, underserved and in particular those groups who are often left behind. These communities include vulnerable and key populations such as the LGBTIQ+ communities and sex workers. In Partnership with SRHR and LGBTIQ+ activists, BOFWA advocates for the SRHR of all people of Botswana, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or status in society.

Over the years, BOFWA has argued that criminalization of same-sex relations and associated stigma and discrimination gravely reduces access to SRHR services, including HIV interventions and other sexually transmitted infections. A distinguished leader in the SRHR sector, BOFWA was the first non-governmental organization in the country to provide antiretroviral treatment to key populations.

Ms. Una Ngwenya, BOFWA’s Executive Director, expressed jubilation at the Court of Appeal’s decision.

“The ruling will go a long way in addressing issues of stigma and discrimination against members of the same-sex community in Botswana. We believe that this decision will inspire members of this community to freely seek SRHR services and go on with their lives like everyone else; they don’t need labels but rather targeted and differentiated services!

Still, we will not sit on our laurels, it is not over yet, members of the same-sex community face various challenges beyond the law; attitudes of service providers, moralizing sex and sexuality and complexities surrounding sexual and gender-based violence among communities remain critical.

While we welcome the Court of Appeal’s judgement, we urge the Government to put in place stringent measures across the country’s health care system that will address the barriers and disparities preventing the LGBTIQ+ community’s access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Equally, we call for the guaranteed safety and protection of our fellow civil society movements that continue to fight barriers and disparities that hinder this community’s access to sexual reproductive health services,” she says.

Ms. Ngwenya adds that BOFWA and IPPF will not relent in their quest to advocate for SRHR-related issues, including laws that provide access to safe abortion and decriminalize sex work.  

“IPPF welcomes Botswana’s ruling in favour of LGBTIQ+ equality and encourages other African countries to follow it. We reiterate our commitment to building the capacities of all our Member Associations, their partners and stakeholders, in ensuring that the sexual reproductive health and rights of all citizens across the world are upheld, unreservedly,” said Marie-Evelyne-Petrus-Barry, IPPF Africa Regional Director.


Media Contacts:

-Mahmoud Garga, Lead Specialist - Strategic Communication, Media Relations and Digital Campaigning, IPPF Africa Regional Office (IPPFARO) – email: [email protected] -Phone +254 704 626 920

Maryanne Wanyama, Communications Office, IPPFARO, Nairobi (Kenya) - Email: [email protected] – Phone: +254 707 952 990



The International Planned Parenthood Federation Africa Region (IPPFAR) is one of the leading providers of quality sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in Africa, and a strong and resolute sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) advocacy voice in the region, committed to gender equality and to ensuring that women, girls and young people realize their rights and have control over their own bodies, their lives and their futures. Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, the overarching goal of IPPFAR is to increase access to integrated SRHR services to the most vulnerable youth, men, and women in sub-Saharan Africa.

Supported by thousands of volunteers, IPPFAR tackles the continent’s growing SRHR challenges through a committed network of Member Associations (MAs) in 40 countries. We do this by supporting and empowering the MAs into efficient entities with the capacity to deliver and sustain high-quality, youth-focused and gender-transformative services. We work with governments, the African Union, Regional Economic Commissions, the Pan-African Parliament, United Nations bodies among others to expand political and financial commitments to sexual and reproductive health and rights in Africa. Learn more about us on our website. Follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and You Tube.






Related Member Association

Botswana Family Welfare Association